I like Born Ruffians. I’m a huge fan of the sweet lyrics and soft, carefree guitar and harmonica in “Little Garçon” from their first album Red, Yellow & Blue. By their third album, Birthmarks, I thought they had really found their sound, and I was excited to see what two years would allow them to do: they had the formula for catchy indie pop down, what was next?
On their new album, RUFF, the Born Ruffians have certainly emphasized a different side of them. The album is rough, and not in the way I think they wanted it to be. Their ‘grungier,’ more altrock style just sounds crowded and more whiny. The melodies found on Birthmarks (“Needle” anyone?) are nowhere to be found here and the bouncy beats that Birthmarks had are sucked of all their joy and regurgitated as something more grating and far less enjoyable. For instance: “When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away” sounds like I’m listening to a petty rant for four minutes.
The vocals sound forced and tired, and even if you separate this album from your prior knowledge of the band, it’s still a mediocre album at best. The vocals drag more. The lyrics are lackluster: take “Eat Shit (We Did It)” for example, or the verses on “Let Me Get it Out.” The whole thing is just something I’ve heard before. It’s not bad, it’s generic. Whatever Born Ruffians had or have that differentiates them from all the other indie rock bands out there, they’ve forgotten to put any of it on RUFF. Mostly the album just left me feeling deflated.
It’s not all bad, though. There are songs worth taking a listen to! “Don’t Live Up” is the melody and beat I expect from Born Ruffians: it’s bright and bouncy and catchy. For one of their slower, sadder songs, “Fuck Feelings” is honest and sounds anesthetized in all the right ways.
What did you think?